In the winter months of Margali and Tai, in the Tenth Regnal Year of King Vel Pari’s Rule, he charged me to chronicle his life. He suggested I follow my heart and hand. – Kabilar
I first met Pari during the birthday festivities of his twin daughters, the princesses Angavai and Sangavai.
‘Their mother’s death devastated me and it took five tasteless years of struggle to rebuild my life,’ said Pari. ‘As ruler of Parambu, I could not betray poor emotions to the public. So, I officiated duties expected of a king but waded through the proceedings no better than a venerated stone god.’
In his quieter moments, Pari succumbed to long monologues. I would fall silent, my mere presence enough to draw out his innermost thoughts.
To him, I was Kabi, his bosom friend. He saw in me things which I did not realise existed, did not exist. He also liked that I was not a courtier, not a schemer. I was a poet, a dreamer. He felt safe with me. I became his confidante. His confidence, his trust, placed a burden on me, but one which I bore. We all have our tasks in life, oft times not of our choosing.
I would rather be a poet, spinning thoughts into fanciful expressions. But it was trickery, what we bards indulged in, and not much better than the snake charmers or fire-eaters in the marketplace. All wisdom is ancient, pre-existent. A poet rearranges old notions and existing words into new patterns. And he gains new accolades. A poet resorts to sleight of phrases, as much as a magician mesmerises with sleight of hands.
There has to be more to our existence than infusing life into dormant thoughts and stale words. Perhaps my task in life was to help Pari meet his destiny. And by helping him realise his destiny, I will realise mine. Perhaps.
Therefore, when he spoke in that slow reflective tone, I went quiet and listened. And when I sensed he wished me to, I posed a question or two. But most of the time, I listened. It was easy for me to listen. As a wanderer, I listened to the sounds of nature: the chirping of birds and tittering of insects; the sighing of breeze and rustle of leaves; the happy gurgles and pops of flowing streams; and the call of wild creatures. But most of all, I heard my heartbeat. Thumping. Rhythmic. Inexorable as the beats devoured life’s allocation. And so, I listened. And as Pari spoke, I visualised his life.
‘Wherever I travelled, eyes scrutinised for chinks of weakness,’ said Pari. ‘Spies reported back to those who sought to expand their lordship over my kingdom. After my wife, my half, departed, my people sank into a gloom to keep me company but I did not need their sympathy. They must live their lives and celebrate their joys. But I yearned for space to heal.
‘I spent long hours along the banks of the life-giving Cauvery River.’ Pari spoke to himself.
The Cauvery flowed along the north eastern part of Parambu Nadu and formed a natural border with our powerful neighbour, the redoubtable Cholan Empire, where Veera Varman ruled with great benevolence. I knew Veer, more than most. But for now, my attention remained with my friend, Pari, and his soliloquy.
‘I suffered mood swings and blamed my blameless daughters for robbing me of my dear wife,’ said Pari. ‘But during more lucid moments, shame engulfed my senses for the poor thoughts directed at the helpless girls. Time was a great ally, Kabi, and so was Chitragandan. Thanks to that loyal noble, in the absence of my heart and mind, if not my person, the nation’s governance did not suffer.
Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019
Continued Friday 6 September 2019